by Steven Gilbert
I'm always on the lookout for interesting historical comics and graphic novels, and when I saw this show up at the store where I shop, I was intrigued. The book, by Steven Gilbert, who apparently built a bit of a name for himself in the Canadian independent comics scene in the 90s, is set in the town of Newmarket (now basically just a suburb of Toronto) at the end of the 19th century.
The title is a little bit misleading, as there is no Main Street Secret Lodge in evidence, but we are given an interesting look into a place at a time where society was going through rapid change. At the centre of this book is a story called 'Cold Cold Ground', which follows a pair of bank robbers, a man and a woman, who have come up from the States. They attack a Northern Outpost, drawing away Captain Gilbert (presumably an ancestor of the author), so that they can rob a bank on Main Street. That robbery doesn't go well, and there is a fair amount of bloodshed. As the robbers flee, things get even worse for a small family we are introduced to earlier.
This story is bookended by some random information on crime in that time (there is a lengthy essay on how people used to rob hotels), and portraits of 'billiards' girls in the nude. In the middle of the story are a couple of pages about the growth of the railroad, and throughout the book are large pictures of scenery and establishing shots.
Gilbert is a strong cartoonist with a deep love of cross-hatching, and the place he is portraying. His publisher, from what I can tell, is a comics store in Newmarket, and it's clear that this unconventional book is a passion project. I enjoyed it, and would gladly return to the journals of the Main Street Secret Lodge, if given another opportunity.